Tea: An Australian Story
Although Camellia bushes are cultivated around the world for their delicate scented flowers it is the Camellia Sinensis (Chinese Rose) variety that is cultivated to produce both green and black tea. If left untended the Camellia Sinensis will grow to over 3 metres in height, however on a tea plantation it is kept at around a metre for harvesting.
The Atherton Tablelands
The Atherton Tablelands are situated in the Cairns hinterland in Tropical North Queensland and provide the perfect environment to grow Nerada’s range of Australian Grown teas. The Nerada Tea Plantation is just a 1&1/2 hour drive from Cairns and is located near the dairy town of Malanda at 790 metres above sea level.
Most of the Camellia plants that Nerada Tea is made from were planted from seed. It takes about 8 years from planting for the Camellia bush to reach its full harvest potential. Only the tender new growth leaves (two leaves and a bud) are harvested for making tea. The Nerada Tea Factory manufactures all of Nerada’s Australian Grown teas drawing from over 400 hectares of tea plantings. Due to Australia’s strict quarantine laws the tea bush has no natural pests in Australia and hence no pesticides are required in cultivation.
In traditional tea growing countries in Asia and Africa the leaves are harvested by hand. In Australia mechanised harvesting had to be developed due to the high cost of labour. This Mechanical Harvester harvests up to 4,000 kg an hour enough to make 1,000 kg of Black Tea. Depending on the season the tea bushes can be harvested every 2-3 weeks. Harvesting takes place all year round. Click play to see Nerada Tea being harvested.
Fresh Tea Leaves
Once harvested the leaves are stored in specially designed containers with fans to keep them cool. The leaves are kept in the containers for about 15 hours. This process is called ‘Withering’ where the leaves lose about 70% of their moisture and become limp and ready to process. To make Green Tea the leaves would be steamed or pan heated at this stage to prevent the enzymes reacting with oxygen further down the processing line hence maintaining their green colour. Click play to see the first stage of Nerada Tea’s processing.
Ripping And Tearing
The method used to process Nerada Tea is called ‘Cut Tear & Curl’ (CTC). The process involves a series of cutters and rollers that release the juices from the tea leaves. CTC produces an even sized strong tea that allows for a quick infusion in the cup. Click play to see the first cut of the process.
Cut Tear and Curl
The green leaves are cut down to a moist green pulp ready for the next process. The tea has been on the process line for less than 5 minutes. Click play
The green tea pulp then moves into the oxidisation process known as ‘Fermentation’. It travels slowly while being turned and kept cool at all times and it acquires its characteristic tea aroma as the enzymes react with the oxygen in the air. This part of the process is omitted when making Green Tea. When making Black Tea this process is crucial to the final taste and quality of the tea. Fermentation takes about 1¾ hours and by this time the green pulp has turned into a dark brown. Click play to see the start and completion of the fermentation process.
To stop Fermentation the tea is blown through a Drier. The pulp is dried with air heated to about 80C, and its moisture is reduced down to 3%. This process takes 10-15 minutes. About 1000 kg an hour passes through the drier. About 6 million kilos of tea leaves are processed every year producing 1.5 million kilos of black tea.
Stalk and Fibre Removal
While the tea is still hot from the Drier rollers remove the leaf stalk and fibre statically. The static electricity is created by felt rubbing on nylon making the stalk and fibre stick to it. Click play to see how the stalk and fibre is removed from the tea.
The Final Product
Once the tea is clean of stalk and fibre the ‘Sorting’ process begins. Sorting is where the tea falls through a series of different sized meshes to separate the larger tea particles from the smaller ones. The larger tea leaves are used for Loose Leaf Tea products and the smaller ones for Teabags. Click play to see the clean Black Tea on its way to the Sorting room. The tea is then packed into Bulk Bags and shipped to the Nerada Packing Factory in Brisbane. The whole process from harvest to finished product has taken about 17 hours.
Once in Brisbane the tea is packed into various Nerada products one of these products is Teabags. This machine packs 450 teabags with string & tag in 1 minute. Click play to see how it’s done.